Sunday, December 31, 2023

John Carpenter's The Thing

I rewatched this 1982 classic and it is a greeat piece of Red Scare witchhunt paranoia. Thinking about the movie's ending and opening credits scene, I think I know how a sequel would play out. To quote from my memory hut:

In 1938 John Campbell wrote a science fiction novella called "Who Goes There?" Later it was adapted into two movies. The first movie by Howard Hawks, "The Thing From Another World", was considered a science fiction horror movie classic. The second movie, John Carpenter's "The Thing", conforms more to the original story. In Hawks' version, the monster is your standard humanoid monster, ala Frankenstein's monster. In Carpenter's version, it is much more alien, more like the Blob - all consuming, but with that imposter twist - and the accompanying paranoia as to whom to trust.

I've read Campbell's novella, and it scared the hell out me. I'll tell you why. One of the more delicious fears one can have is not fear of death, but fear of lack of control. The alien creature doesn't just consume you. It imitates you. It enslaves you. It mutilates your mind and will, and binds you to service it. The other factor is just the right amount of information. In a horror flick, or in a story, you need just enough information to know that something is a threat, perhaps even an existential threat, but not so much information that you are familiar with the threat. This has always been a problem in movies. How much of the monster do you show? Not enough, and it is all just boring. Too much, and the monster is just another character.

There is a defining scene in Campbell's story when the humans realize that even the tiniest piece of monster can take over an organism. And when one character realizes that their cows have not been monitored against "infection", and that they have all been drinking the milk.
"Mac, how long have the... cows been... not cows?"
 It's a great creepy moment, when he realizes, in a fit of revulsion, hysteria, and self-loathing, that he may be a Thing and not even know it.

The end scene is MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) sitting among a ruined camp, soon to freeze to death. There is indecision whether one of both of them is the Thing. MacReady points out they are in no position to do anything about it. They share a bottle of whiskey as the fire dies down and the dark and cold close in. If either of them is a Thing. one cell passed by whiskey makes two Things. Carpenter said he has the answer but won't say. It goes like this:

Point being the Earth is probably doomed. Not from the crashed Thing, but what was chasing it. 

In the opening credits scene, the flying saucer's flight path is erratic, probably damaged, and crashing on Earth is both an act of desperation and an attempt to hide. From something worse than the Thing.

The Thing might be a criminal or refugee or a larger threat to things like us out there. It is unlikely the things like us will have any sympathy towards us things like them. 

One sequel would be where the Thing talks to us, through somebody, giving us a choice to live because these things like us from the galaxy are going to blast the planet otherwise, just to be sure. So, do we become Things and maybe survive.

No, I think my sequel would be presented as the aliens chasing the Thing versus us, only at the end to find out we were Things all along and didn't know it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

What Happens When the AI Bubble Pops

We've had lots of market bubbles, some more harmful than others. The tech dotcom bust was bad and in some ways we still have not recovered. The mortage crisis, the crypto market, NFTs and now AI.

The problem is you start out with a useful thing and it gets abused, rideshare apps turn into Ubers, blockchain into Bitcoins, LLMs into ChatGPTs.  But, like abandoned malls, each bubble left something useful behind.  Cory Doctorow wrote a Locus column about this stuff
Think about some 21st century bubbles. The dotcom bubble was a terrible tragedy, one that drained the coffers of pension funds and other institutional investors and wiped out retail investors who were gulled by Superbowl Ads. But there was a lot left behind after the dotcoms were wiped out: cheap servers, office furniture and space, but far more importantly, a generation of young people who'd been trained as web makers, leaving nontechnical degree programs to learn HTML, perl and python. This created a whole cohort of technologists from non-technical backgrounds, a first in technological history. Many of these people became the vanguard of a more inclusive and humane tech development movement, and they were able to make interesting and useful services and products in an environment where raw materials – compute, bandwidth, space and talent – were available at firesale prices.
Cory goes on about crypto and NFTs and AI and notes that all of these things are incredibly energy intensive and requires water hog server farms which  require lots of people with  high technical skills. When you consider the average human brain runs on 40 watts of power, AI doesn't look so super in terms of computation over energy use. For that matter, the sheer computational waste on useless mining calculations or frivolous queries is tantamount to just worst kind of circle jerks. 

Take self-driving cars, which have blown through 100 billion dollars and still require supervision. It has been estimated that we could have (had) commercial nuclear fusion for 200 billion dollars and yet the amount spent on fusion research is a pittance compared to replacing reliable but expensive human drivers with flawed robots.

What is the real problem is that all of these bubbles are based upon fraud, grift and lies. (Not surprising as the salient of capitalism is force and fraud. There is little to be done about this so long as it is profitable.)\

What Cory points out it what is left afterwards? In some cases, like his example above, obstacles become opportunities, and in others, nothing goods comes from it:
Or think of Worldcom vs Enron. Both bubbles were built on pure fraud, but Enron's fraud left nothing behind but a string of suspicious deaths. By contrast, Worldcom's fraud was a Big Store con that required laying a ton of fiber that is still in the ground to this day, and is being bought and used at pennies on the dollar.
So, what about AI?  There are useful applications, the equivalent of crows and wolves that can efficiently and effectively disassemble a real world problem into data carrion. Others? If the bubble pops and the companies deflate or bust entirely, what of some actually useful applications no longer supported? I keep thinking of people with medical technology in them that is orphaned by bankrupt tech companies or organizations gutted by private equity. 

The reason there is a scare about AGI or human or superhuman level AI is because the companies with very large investments would like very much for the open source methods to go away and they can earn/hide their profits by good old fashioned bullying or theft, via the time-tested rentier system. 

I  have pointed out somewhere in this memory hut, we've had AGI for thousands of years and it is called government. In smaller more specialized versions called corportations. We have already seen these entities to pursue their own utility functions to he detriment of us regular folks. 

I'm less worried about AI safety and more worried about fairness, privacy, criminality and bias than I am about robot overlords.  

Other things. I keep thinking of the weird right wing religous bullshit that seems to be getting more stirdent, or more press. Given the woeful state of journalism, (and AI hasn't helped, but it s not AIs fault, its greedy executives are pulling this turd) I'm guess just sensationalist press. Still, this shit fest with abortion and fetus as a person.

I should note that most human embryos naturally die after conception. Spontaneous abortion is perfetly natural. Nonviable cell clusters disintegrate before attaching to the uterus. 

So the quesion I have to ask those who believe that life begins at conception: why are so many people commiting suicide? That's a sin, right? Why does God permit this unless it is part of His Plan. Maybe God just really likes killing babies.

Also, I got spiffed up for a holiday party.

I clean up well.

I think I accidentally go some powerful tattoos. Or maybe it is me.

If I were playing a part, the obvious one is Hitler's butler, because I bet you I could pass.

Friday, December 15, 2023

My name is John and I am 66 and a half

Silverback! Starting for me about 60? Six and a half years later, I'm less muscular, getting skinny arms and a fat belly unless I pick up the pace. My goal (and despite my medical problems) is that I am leaner and fitter so I can work when I am old.  Exercises are geared more towards balance and Turkish get ups, etc. along with resistence training. At least walk every day. Cancer free.

So, why fit enough to work? Why not just fit enough to be old? Independence for as long as possible, before the enfeeblement and second infancy.  

The family history is strokes and heart attacks in the mid 60s, perfect for the Social Security Administration plan. Modern medicine is changing that and we Kurmans are heading into uncharted territory, death-wise. 

Speaking of Social Security, I will be on SS at 67, for optimal payout. and hurray to yesterday Johnny for earning through labor and occasional ingenuity, the promise of such that we call "money".

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Burnt Weenie Sandwich

I'm feeling sorry for all the lunk-heads in the news: Trump, Biden, Musk, Xi, Putin, fuck me the list is endless. I've too many famous people to worry about! 

Assume that 8 billion and a smidge humans have altered the planet. You say, we're so tiny what could we do? The Ozone hole for one. Smacking an asteroid with a robot for two. The Amazon rain forest for three, human cultivated and a gruesome reminder of just how many millions of people died from filthy disgusting western europeans and their clever savage ways!

If the planet has been altered we face two futures, the Anthropocene, or the Anthropozoic. 

(Do I have to explain? The antrhopocene is short-lived, doomed to short dick thinking. The Anthropozoic is much much longer, certainly not a quarter billion years like the dinosaurs, but longer than a million. Homo sapiens sapiens, anatomically modern humans, lookalikes, have been around a third of a million years. So we got two-thirds of a million years to not fuck it up and survive.

Intelligence has still not shown advantage in long term evolutionary survival.

Anyway, Elon Musk is getting butt hurt. Cars recalled, rockets and websites crashing, a Boring company that has drill 2 and a half miles. Monkeys slaughtered to put chips in brains for his Martian slave army, but . A breakthrough for a wearable device to access the brain is being developed

Not surprising, given networks were reverse engineered from neurons because we couldn't figure it out. Neural networks get used to filtering out stuff and call it noise. These thinking caps (like we are stuck in the 1920s Monkey Singularity) successfully interpret thought. Verbs more accurately than nouns, but a promising start. And if this can be done as a wearable, it can be done remotely. 

If a brain can be read remotely, can it also be written?

Anyway pics of the latest iterations of one hit wonder interspersed through the narrative. I have stumbled upon a really nice aerofoil design for smoike delivery in the form of a turtle, or a tongue.